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View Full Version : Curious about Disney's recurring theme


aspinc2001
03-27-2010, 04:09 AM
I'm sure this has been asked in the past but I can't find it. Why do so few of Disney's main characters have both parents? I understand the concept of the writers wanting you to empahize with the 'hero' but it seems to be almost a signature Disney theme. The reason I'm asking is because my 6yo son is adopted and he is suddenly very curious about it. Starting to wonder if it's a bad idea to let him watch them so often since he is adopted and the idea of temporary parents might be worrying him. I had always joked in the past that if you're a parent in a Disney movie, you got a 50/50 chance of making it out alive. But it's so obvious that even my 6 year old is calling them out on it. Thanks for any ideas/opinions!

DisneyCrazy915
03-27-2010, 08:02 PM
I have absolutely no idea why they do this, but my guess is that it is to avoid alienating families with one parent, just grandparents, aunts, uncles, you get the idea. It may also be easier to just include one parent in the story, since they aren't central figures anyway. The main characters don't seem affected by this either, so for some I've always assumed that they exist but aren't shown. The only movie I can think of where one of the main characters actually talks about this Russel in Up, when he's telling Carl about his dad. Actually if I think what I'm thinking (does that make sense :confused:) Disney's actually pretty smart. It can be interpreted either way, making everyone happy :goodvibes

aspinc2001
03-27-2010, 11:32 PM
Yes, I was so sad about Russell's dad in 'Up', but at least he was alive I suppose. My son keeps asking me where Andy's dad is in 'Toy Story'. Maybe it is better not to know because he was horrified about what happened to Nemo's mom. RIP poor, poor Coral!

iheartjacksparrow
03-28-2010, 10:37 AM
I always wondered this myself. There's always only one parent, or if there happens to be both, one dies like in Nemo. It's like Disney has a darkside they don't want us to know about.

Experiment_626
03-28-2010, 12:44 PM
I have absolutely no idea why they do this, but my guess is that it is to avoid alienating families with one parent, just grandparents, aunts, uncles, you get the idea.I don't think it's so much that as it is a means to tell a version of "the hero's journey." Not having both parents forces the protagonist to rely upon him- or herself. If parents (or a second parent, in some cases) were present and available to the hero, it wouldn't make sense for said hero not to go to the parent for help -- which would complicate the story of the protagonist becoming a hero.
The only movie I can think of where one of the main characters actually talks about this Russel in Up, when he's telling Carl about his dad.The most heartbreaking example of this I can recall is in Lilo & Stitch, where Lilo tells Stitch the story behind the treasured photo of herself and Nani with their parents -- "It was raining; they went for a drive." Just a few words that tells all we need to know. Makes me tear up every time I watch it.

Mtukufu
03-28-2010, 01:00 PM
I think that to an extent, experiencing loss is something that builds strong characters who we reach out to because we understand loss as well, though we all may not have experienced it to the same extent as various characters.

DisneyCrazy915
03-28-2010, 01:58 PM
I don't think it's so much that as it is a means to tell a version of "the hero's journey." Not having both parents forces the protagonist to rely upon him- or herself. If parents (or a second parent, in some cases) were present and available to the hero, it wouldn't make sense for said hero not to go to the parent for help -- which would complicate the story of the protagonist becoming a hero.

Yes this is probably it. It's just such a cliche' for the hero to be orphaned or just have one parent. IMO, the hero's journey can still be experienced if one has both parents, since it is a personal journey. At least that's how I always thought of it. I suppose the hero loosing a parent or trying to fill an emptiness by a parent they've never know, makes them more likely to accept the call. Sorry, getting off topic. It's just that cliche'd stories seem to frustrate me :headache: I love them, but sometimes they're to predictable. I'm still waiting for that uncliched story to come along, I think I may wait forever :worried:

Mtukufu
03-28-2010, 02:20 PM
I'm still waiting for that uncliched story to come along, I think I may wait forever :worried:

It's been said that every story possible has already been told in one shape or form. I hope it's not really true, though. :upsidedow

j&j620
03-28-2010, 03:14 PM
I think for some of the earlier movies they were just trying to stay true to the traditional fairy tales. Snow White's mother, for instance, is dead in the original story. So is Cinderella's, the Little Mermaid's, and Beauty's. Cinderella, however, does still have her father in the original tale. I think Disney's decision to have him die might have been their way of preventing the audience from questioning why he would let his new wife treat his daughter so cruelly.

I have no idea why they have continued this "theme" for their own original films, though! :confused:

themilesfamily
03-28-2010, 03:40 PM
Orphans in literature are quite common - not just in Disney.:

Harry Potter (both parents dead)
The Boxcar Children (both parents dead)
Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events (both parents dead)
Anne of Green Gables (both parents dead)
The Secret Garden (both parents dead)
The Wizard of Oz (both parents dead)
The House with a Clock in Its Walls (both parents dead)
Heidi (both parents dead)
Charles Dickens had an orphan in nearly every book
The Little Princess (mother dead, father believed dead)
Annie (both parents dead)
Ballet Shoes - and other books in the "Shoes" series (three children whose parents are all dead and an absent caregiver to boot)
Many of Roald Dahl's works -- James and the Giant Peach, The Witches, etc. - (both parents dead)

And even when the parents ARE alive, there is often some construct to render them largely absent. For example, in "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" the children are sent away from their parents to escape the bombing in London. Sometimes children are sent into a different world, ("The Phantom Tollbooth" and again, "The Chronicles of Narnia.")

The orphan construct is convenient for writers -- it gives their heroes and heroines more freedom to get involved in adventures. It also gives them a difficult background from which to rise above.

Also, orphans were much more common 150 years ago than they are today. There was more disease, higher mortality rates -- more children were in fact orphaned, so they ended up as characters in stories frequently. This is particularly true of Charles Dickens work.

Disney Dad Canada
03-29-2010, 12:51 PM
As a widowed dad of three small kids (DS 10, dd twins 6) I'm very glad that they have so many stories with one parent. My kids pick up on this quicker than I do sometimes, but IMO it makes them feel better knowing that someone else is going through the same thing they are.

One big mistake I made was the weekend my wife passed away from cancer, I started throwing in Disney DVDs to get my kids' mind off of things. Guess what I picked first, totally at random ... Bambi. YIKES!!

Some stories are particularly vague about the subject too. Does Andy have a dad or no?

iwrbnd
03-29-2010, 12:55 PM
Tiana in Princess and the Frog had both parents through her childhood. Her dad died but I fiqured it was from old age.:confused3 They never really said, though, so maybe she was young when he died, too.:confused:

hedgehog2owl
03-29-2010, 01:05 PM
Tiana in Princess and the Frog had both parents through her childhood. Her dad died but I fiqured it was from old age.:confused3 They never really said, though, so maybe she was young when he died, too.:confused:

She looks at a picture of him in a military uniform, so I assumed he died in the war

karly05
03-29-2010, 08:15 PM
She looks at a picture of him in a military uniform, so I assumed he died in the war

Agreed. It's not explained in the film, or on the commentary track, but since grown-up Tiana has the photo of him in the WWI uniform, with a medal hanging from the frame, I assumed he had died in the war.

ksl5f123
04-13-2010, 05:12 PM
We just watched Mulan for the first time about a week ago and I was pleased to see that both of her parents survived the entire movie. :yay: I had just been trying to think about others where that was true and was surprised at the difficulty.

Bephus
04-14-2010, 03:01 AM
Both of her parents are alive although she is sent away from them until her 16 th birthday.

While taking a psych class I learned that the theme of one parent often is used so that the audience connects to the character more. Plus there is a Freudian aspect to it. Girls want their fathers to themselves so like heroines who don't have mothers competing for the fathers love.

coneygoil
04-14-2010, 09:32 AM
I think it was very poignant in Treasure Planet when Silver asks Jim "Your pop wasn't the teaching type?" and Jim replies "No, more like the leaving and never come back type". And then in the music montegue they show Jim's dad leaving and little jim running after him. It so sad :( It seemed more relatable than most Disney movies missing a parent.

Brian_WDW74
04-14-2010, 04:19 PM
"By not having a complete family, it represents a catalyst or a dramatic turning point that forces the character to grow up. . . . It's that crossroads where we all have to decide if we're going to mature or remain a kid forever. And the thing that gets that going in many of our stories is the absence of a parent or the death of a parent."

-- Don Hahn, Disney producer